State Health Boards Support Findings On Adverse Health Effects To LGBTQ Alaskans

May 19, 2017

Kate Burkhart (center), Executive Director of AMHB pictured here, May 16, 2017
Credit Christine Trudeau / KYUK

When they met this week in Bethel, the state behavioral health boards took a look at the Alaska Mental Health Board (AMHB) and Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (ABADA) report about the adverse effects of discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Alaskans. The boards decided to endorse the report's findings that discrimination brings a higher risk of drug and alcohol abuse and other risk behaviors. The boards think that more access to health and community services could help.   


Thursday was the last day of the ABADA and AMHB spring meeting at the Bethel Cultural Center. On the agenda was a report entitled “White Paper: Sexual Minority Behavioral Health,” which provided background information explaining terminology, data, and laid out the evidence of what discrimination can do for the board members and the public to reflect upon.


“They accepted that as a reflection of their thought processes related to the heightened risks to a whole host of things,” said Kate Burkhart, Executive Director of the AMHB, “including behavioral health issues among sexual minority populations.”


Burkhart said that a link to the report can be found on their website under their "Bethel Board Meeting Materials".


Burkhart said that they were prompted to generate the report when Anchorage Democratic Senator Berta Gardner sponsored Senate Bill 72. The bill has not moved very far in the Senate, but it will carry over and gets another chance of advancing during next year's session. Along with Burkhart, Pat Sidmore compiled the research findings based on national, state, and some municipal data. Among other things, the report looks at something called "adverse childhood experiences", or ACEs.


“When I looked at ACE data, in terms of race and other demographics, trauma, childhood trauma, LGBT people were by far the highest impacted by trauma,” said Sidmore.


That trauma, resulting from discrimination in a community or even by family members, could be emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse; and neglect, physical and/or emotional, along with household dysfunction.  


According to the Anchorage LGBTQ Discrimination Survey cited in the report, “Fifteen percent said that they had been (at least once) forced to move with no place to go, and of these, 35 percent had been forced to move with no place to go in the past year.”


Board members voted to adopt the report with eight in favor and three against. They debated endorsing the anti-discrimination legislation, but some board members were hesitant because of potential amendments that might revise the intent of SB 72 in committee.